Sociology - Religion - Functionalists
His views -
Believes that religion functions as a force that binds society together and encourages social cohesion, he believes it helps create and maintain a collective conscience. By collective consience Durkheim means shared ideas and beliefs in a society that make social life possible. Durkheim argues that this is religion's function in society because the shared rituals religion provides bring people together and the rules and guidelines religion provides helps create shared norms and values.
His Research -
Durkheim did a study on a tribe of australian aborigines called the Arunta Tribe, he found that they all worshipped Totems and he came to the conclusion that the Totem that the tribe worshipped was sacred and everything else in their everyday life was profane, therefore when the worshipped the totems together they were worshipping their own society and this coming together of the society to worship their totem binded all individuals to the society. Because this was such a primitive religion Durkheim claims that it was one
of the foremost original religions and all religions stem from it and therefore function the same way in society.
This study was published in 1912 and though it may have applied to the religions in that day and age it is no nearly a whole century later and the same may not apply e.g. in 1912 most of the population of britain were religious and were a member of church so therefore his theory may have applied where as in modern britain much less of the population are a member of a church marginalised from society.
Another criticism is that religions nowadays are more varied and complicated than totemism society itself is also more ethnically diverse which means the different ethnicities bring with them their own religions and cultures so it would be im possible for one religion to spread a collective conscience when their are so many religions in britain. The upsurge in cults and sects may also go against his theory because most of the sects and cults attract people that are marginalised in society
One positive criticism is that durkheim says that religion creates a collective conscience through shared values and our legal system in britain is based on religious morals and values, the 10 commandments Thou shalt not steal, kill, commit adultery, e.t.c. this shows that religion can create shared values. On the other hand who is to say that religion created these values, many may say that thse are just common sense values that religion took under its belt from previous societies and with or without religion the law would stil encompass these morals and values.